Friday, March 3, 2017

U.N. narcotics report advocates alternatives to incarceration (March 3, 2017)

The 2016 report from the International Narcotics Control Board is out. It emphasizes that "criminal justice responses to drug use must be tempered by respect for due process and acknowledgment that the conventions foresee humane and proportionate responses to substance abuse and drug-related crimes, including alternatives to conviction through education, treatment, aftercare, rehabilitation and social reintegration."

The report says that usage of common drugs continues to increase in the region -- an established trend -- but encourages countries to rethink traditional strategies, notes InSight Crime.

In reference to Latin America specifically, the board notes a CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana meeting last year, and emphasizes that the 1961 Convention limits the use of cannabis to medical and scientific purposes. "The Board encourages States to adopt nonpunitive responses for minor drug-related offences committed by drug users, instead of arrest and incarceration, as an alternative provided by the international drug control conventions."

The report walks a fine line on the issue of cannabis: it notes that medicinal use is permitted by international treaty, but also emphasizes that sale for recreational purposes is not permitted by those conventions.

A thematic chapter looks at the issue of women and drugs. "Drug-related harms to women and the resulting consequences for communities are often sorely under-studied, and gender-disaggregated data on drug use are rarely collected," according to the foreword.

Women and girls comprise one-third of global drug users yet are only one-fifth of those receiving treatment, as significant systemic, structural, social, cultural and personal barriers affect women’s ability to access substance abuse treatment.

The report emphasizes Central America and the Caribbean's role as a major trans-shipment area for drugs produced in the Andean region, notably Colombia.

News Briefs
  • A series of massive cocaine shipment seizures in Ecuador and the Caribbean point to the resurgence of a trafficking trend thought to be in the past, and is likely due to the increase in Colombian cocaine production in recent years, reports InSight Crime.
  • Battling the U.S. opioid crisis will require cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments, said William R. Brownfield, assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs. One of the few remaining senior Obama administration appointees emphasized that such collaboration is at "historically high levels," reports the New York Times.
  • The biggest threat to peace in Colombia might be persistent poverty in the country's rural areas, and the astonishingly lucrative illicit economies: drug trafficking, illegal mining and extortion, among them, reports the Washington Post.
  • Media reports are linking increasing violence in Mexico with the extradition of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and an apparent ensuing internal power struggle within the organization. But though reports of turmoil within the cartel mean more violence in certain areas, it's yet early to pinpoint a national rise in homicide rates to that single factor, according to InSight Crime.
  • Mexico's congressional audit body found that a polemic government program that gave away about 10 million televisions in 2015 wasted about $39 million in public funds, reports the Wall Street Journal. The program itself, aimed at helping the country's poor adjust to the switch from analog to digital television signals, cost nearly $1 billion. The audit found that some 339,000 of the televisions were faulty, and about 12,200 television sets are missing altogether. 
  • Mexico's econ minister is meeting with U.S. auto execs today, part of a push to defend NAFTA, reports the Financial Times
  • The crisis in Brazil's penal system -- which grabbed headlines with deadly prison riots in January that killed 140 inmates -- is paralleled in the country's juvenile detention centers, where advocates decry inhumane conditions, overcrowding. "Mano dura" proposals from politicians pandering to public opinion, which favors tougher sentencing for teens, will likely worsen the situation, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer tapped a pro-business, Trump critic to head the country's foreign ministry.  Senator Aloysio Nunes is a strong advocate of free trade and private initiative, reports Reuters.
  • The leader of Ecuador's indigenous confederation spoke out against current president Rafael Correa and tacitly backed right-wing presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso in the upcoming second round elections, reports TeleSUR.
  • Bloomberg has an in-depth report on the beating to death of Bolivia's vice minister in charge of domestic affairs by striking miners last year. "On the surface, the murder wasn’t a mystery at all. Everyone knew who’d done it (the miners in the video), why they’d done it (revenge), and how (bludgeoning with sticks, stones, and mining helmets). But in the months after the killings, Bolivians sought deeper explanations, trying to identify the social and economic forces behind the violence—underlying causes of death that didn’t show up in the coroner’s report."
  • The residents of the Cinquera municipality in El Salvador voted nearly unanimously to become the country's fifth territory to forbid mining, reports IPS.
  • Costa Rica and Nicaragua announced greater cooperation in tackling organized crime, and sign of the high level threats they're both facing, reports InSight Crime.
  • A massive forest fire in Chile has sparked accusations from environmentalists that the forestry industry is avoiding safety precautions, reports the Guardian.

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